Michal Kapral prevented from joggling at NYC Marathon

This is arguably the biggest bummer in joggling history. Michal Kapral, the world’s fastest marathon joggler, has been denied permission to joggle in the NYC marathon due to “security concerns”: World Record Holder Denied Permission to Joggle New York City Marathon.

This is absurd. 3 small millet-stuffed beanbags are now deemed “security threats” under draconian new rules that ban all props. Michal Kapral was planning on breaking his old world record at the NYC marathon and trained very hard for this event. It saddens me both as a joggler and as a native New Yorker that security concerns would come to this.

This isn’t just a setback for Michal Kapral, but a setback for the sport of joggling. Unfortunately, I suspect that there’s more to this than just security concerns. Some people just don’t take joggling seriously, and this may very well include the organizers of the NYC marathon, though they have a long history of supporting our sport.

Let’s hope that the organizers of the NYC marathon rethink their decision before November 1st. It would be terrible if other marathons followed NYC’s example. In the mean time, Kapral is looking for another marathon that is more joggler-friendly to break his old record.

Tossed Out: No Joggling Allowed at New York City Marathon

Yonkers Marathon Race Report

At the Yonkers marathon

At the Yonkers marathon

What can one say about the Yonkers marathon that hasn’t already been said? It has been described over the years as a “beast of a marathon”, or even a “monster” because of its seemingly never-ending hills. This old marathon is still considered one of the nation’s most challenging. And this year the beast got the better of me.

I won’t bore you with endless details, so instead here are the stats:

Finishing time: 4:10:03(my slowest marathon ever) compared to 3:40 last year

Rank: 109 out of 220 finishers

I was 33 out of 53 in the 30 to 39 age group

Screenshot from 2015-10-23 21:32:00

The good news is that I didn’t drop the balls once(2 years in a row no drops!). In fact I’ve been using the same Gballz beanbags since my first marathon. So why was I so slow this year? I think the rerouting of the marathon route made it even hillier, and I may have started out a little too fast. By the time I got to this hill at mile 23 I could barely move and I felt like I injured my right knee, and so I had to walk for a little while after. Still, I PRed some shorter distances and got tremendous crowd support. It was great going through east Yonkers for a change, unlike the other 2 times I did this race when it was a double loop around west Yonkers.

As far as I can tell my training was adequate, though maybe I should have done some more long runs. Although I’m a little disappointed with my performance, this was a valuable learning experience. I believe I’m already a better runner/joggler because of this experience.

Thank you city of Yonkers and a big thanks to everyone who cheered me on as I passed.

If you ran the Yonkers marathon, I would love hearing from you in the comments.

Yonkers Marathon here I come!


At the Yonkers marathon last year

As I’m sure many of you already know, on October 18th I will joggle the Yonkers marathon for the 3rd time, my 4th marathon overall. I’m really excited about it this year because it’s on an almost entirely new route. The first several miles are the same as last year, but instead of being a double loop, it’s one big loop that incorporates much of eastern Yonkers with all its glorious hills. Another reason I’m excited is because it’s in the middle of October instead of the end of September like the last few years, so I’m expecting much cooler weather this time around.

My goal is to finish in 3:30, compared to 3:40 last year. I also hope to run the entire race without dropping, just like last year. Even I’m still surprised I managed to joggle the entire marathon without dropping. It was blissful how all that training paid off, much to the enjoyment of friends and the enthusiastic crowds at the marathon. A big thank you to all my friends and supporters, I couldn’t do it without you. Well, maybe I could, but it wouldn’t be as fun. Let’s continue to take vegan athletics to new heights!

See you there!

Say goodbye to olive oil? No way!


It seems there’s always something you must eliminate from your diet if you really want to be healthy. Or at least, that is something a certain sub-group of the vegan/plant-based community who supposedly have a monopoly on truth and perfect health want you to believe. For many, it’s gluten, for others, it’s soy, but what gets demonized the most nowadays are oils, including and especially olive oil. Oil-free veganism is all the rage these days, with some advocates of this approach getting frustrated whenever they run into skeptical vegans like me who disagree with them. Although they eschew all oil, olive oil is usually the main target of oil-free proponents because of the common, largely accurate idea that it can be healthy in moderation.

Where did this bizarre notion that olive oil is bad for you come from? A group of plant-based doctors have been pushing this idea for years now, based on some flawed studies that don’t always have control groups. To say that there is room for skepticism based on their research is the understatement of the century. Besides the inherent flaws of these studies, another reason I am very skeptical is because I prefer looking at the totality of the evidence, not just what a small group of researchers are saying. Overwhelmingly, the evidence from the wider scientific community doesn’t agree with them. The idea that all fat is bad is something the scientific community repudiated a long time ago.

Beyond just being skeptical, as an animal advocate, I don’t like placing any more restrictions on a vegan diet than is necessary(read Ginny Messina’s articles below for her take on this). Most people think a vegan diet is too restricted as it is. Why recommend eliminating something that science shows is okay or even healthy in moderation? Numerous studies show that people following a Mediterranean diet, which very often includes olive oil, have significantly lower heart disease risk. This isn’t to say that you have to consume olive oil, or that it’s okay to consume it in large amounts, it’s just that it shouldn’t be the big issue it currently is.

I’ll gladly give up olive oil when and if the evidence shows it is harmful in moderation. I tire of hearing “I’m giving up olive oil because I attended a lecture by the brilliant Dr. So and So and he convinced me it’s the most horrible thing ever”. I also don’t care for the often hypocritical whole foodist dogmatism that underpins this anti-olive oil stance and which forbids consuming anything that isn’t considered a “whole food”. For some, overly rigid whole foodism is a stepping stone to the even more extreme and pseudo-scientific world of rawfoodism. Sometimes it seems like there’s a bizarre kind of competition going on to see who can survive on the most restricted diet.

If you care about your health, completely eliminating olive oil from your diet is probably pointless(unless your doctor recommends you do so or if you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to metabolize fat); if you care about helping animals, this is pointless, a big distraction, and potentially a hindrance in vegan outreach efforts. While I follow and recommend a mostly whole food vegan diet, I am not overly rigid about it, though I was more rigid years ago. A little oil or a few sweets are going to harm the health of a healthy distance joggler like me? Really? To me, as a non-expert, it all comes down to what consensus science says, not just a few doctors or scientists with an extreme minority view. For this reason, you won’t see me making dietary recommendations on this blog that have little to no basis in science. I realize that my approach makes me a black sheep to much of the vegan community, but so be it.

Related articles:

  1. Olive oil, Health, And Advocacy
  2. Vegan Health: The Fatty Acids
  3. Mayo Clinic: If olive oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?
  4. Farewell, Low-Fat: Why Scientists Applaud Lifting A Ban On Fat
  5. Help Animals With Healthful and Practical Vegan Diets
  6. Nutrition Professor Says “No Broccoli Health Benefits. Ditch ASAP!”

Summer Joggling Highlights

I’m sorry if my absence has worried anyone. The rumors about me drowning while juggle-swimming out to sea are greatly exaggerated. No, I haven’t forgotten you, my dear readers, it’s just harder to blog consistently when I spend so much of my free time outside during the summer. Though I haven’t joggled any official races so far this year, lots of exciting things have been going on recently, some of which may be difficult to believe. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe what follows.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer:

On Sunday, June 14th I joggled all the way from Mount Vernon to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, a distance of 23.3 miles. It took me 4 hours and 8 minutes to complete this journey from the quiet suburbs to the noisy maelstrom that is the Big Apple, and I didn’t drop the balls once. It was in the mid 70s at the beginning and 85 toward the end. I ran this exact route before back in November 2013, but I dropped several times.

The reason it’s a big deal to me that I didn’t drop during this run is all the endless distractions on this route, especially after leaving Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The heat and humidity and the fact that it was almost totally cloudless that day also weren’t very helpful. Since the Hudson river path runs along the West Side highway, there’s a ton of noise from all the traffic, as well as exhaust fumes. On the path there were many cyclists, runners, skaters, and the occasional freak. It got crowded at times and I had to run around many people. I had to take several short breaks to refuel or rehydrate.

Screenshot from 2015-08-03 15:02:20

I got a lot of comments and support as usual, but I think some Manhattanites are kind of used to joggling. Even with everything going on, I did surprisingly well and had no major fumbles. I was exhausted the last few miles and upon completing I was ecstatic. I was shocked that I didn’t drop once while running the entire length of Manhattan and then some! Besides weariness, I was dealing with sensory overload from big city craziness. This is why I don’t run in the city very often. After runs like this, I appreciate joggling in the woods a lot more.

Besides this, I managed to not drop at all during all joggling runs from July 7, to July 21, for a total of 102 miles of dropless joggling. My previous record was 70 miles without dropping. Yes, I did drop while doing juggle chi many times during this time frame, but that’s a completely separate activity. I came very close to dropping so many times during that 2 week no drops streak. It will be difficult repeating that. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this indicates I can joggle a 100 mile ultra-marathon without dropping.

Though it feels good to not drop, it comes at the expense of not challenging myself enough. In part, I was able to do this because I avoided doing some complex tricks that I still struggle with. However, I did plenty of simple tricks. It often got unbearably hot during those 2 weeks, but making sure I was properly-hydrated and had enough electrolytes helped prevent any serious heat issues.

On top of this, to celebrate the long awaited grand reopening of the old High Bridge, I joggled across it twice on July 25th. It had been closed for over 40 years and the city only recently finished renovating it. It was a really big celebration with so much going on on both sides of the bridge and even on the bridge. This historic bridge, which is the oldest in New York City, goes over the Harlem river and connects Manhattan to the Bronx(it’s a pedestrian-only bridge). The High Bridge was originally part of the Old Croton Aqueduct which I’ve mentioned many times before since I often run on the trail that follows the path of the now defunct aqueduct in Westchester county.2015-07-25 12.34.32


I’ve been meaning to do this forever. I remember driving under or near this ghostly structure countless times during my childhood. But this relic was impassible, and in desperate need of repair. So now it’s finally open, and it’s much easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get from Manhattan to the Bronx. I felt so ecstatic crossing it while juggling, and many people were very amused. It’s possible I’m the first person to joggle across the High Bridge, unless some other jogglers in the area beat me to it. The day I joggled across the bridge(I didn’t drop), I also noticed some unicylists on it who probably had the same idea. The kids loved it! Later on, along with some friends and as a walking juggler, I took part in this Giraffe(giant paper mache giraffe heads)parade across the bridge, and the kids loved that too.

How am I able to do this? It requires a lot of dedication, but the rewards are endless. All this acrobatic fun is the end result of a very healthy lifestyle that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, and knowing how to deal with stress. Indeed, joggling may be one of the best ways to deal with stress since it is such a powerful, full-body exercise. It puts your mind in this unique “zone” that makes it more difficult for stress to get to you. That it makes people around you smile is a nice bonus.


Scott Jurek sets new world record running Appalachian Trail


As I am sure many of you already know, vegan ultra-runner Scott Jurek set a new world record by running the Appalachian trail, a 2,189-mile journey in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes. He beat the previous record by 3 hours. He holds numerous other world records for ultra-running.

It’s an understatement to say that much of the vegan community(and running comunity) was thrilled when Jurek completed yesterday. I know I was. I’m really happy for Jurek, he’s one of the ultimate vegan role models. It’s moments like these when we can really drive home the message that a vegan lifestyle is not a limiting one. Congratulations Scott Jurek! You’re one of the most inspiring people in the world! Vegans rejoice!

As for joggling the Appalachian trail: Will keep everyone posted when and if that happens.

Veganism adrift – Why we shouldn’t be so quick to praise “vegan” celebrities


Painting by Ludolf Bakhuizen

As a vegan, I am angry. I am angry because the word “vegan” has been diluted to near meaninglessness by weight-obsessed pseudo-vegan celebrities, and the cult-like adulation they receive from a large part of the vegan(or rather “plant-based”) community. It seems every time a celebrity goes on a mostly plant-based diet purely for vanity reasons, the usual suspects promote them as the ultimate vegan role model. As a way to promote veganism, this approach pretty much always backfires for the vegan community, at least for those who do it for the animals(as if there are other types of vegans; more on that latter). The foolishness of this spectacle is nauseating for vegans who know better.

It turns out that Beyoncé, the “vegan” role model du jour doesn’t just wear fur, she still still eats meat. A “vegan” who eats meat? Personally, I always thought the fur thing and the fact that she said she was doing it simply for weight-loss disqualified her from having anything to do with veganism. Still, this didn’t stop the vegan non-thinkers brigade from proclaiming Beyoncé as the new vegan idol.

Many vegan activists claim when celebrities go vegan or near-vegan, even though it is almost always temporary, insincere, and not for ethical reasons, this helps spread the word about veganism. I see things very differently. It’s already a lost cause if the veganism the celebrity is promoting is a temporary crash diet motivated purely by vanity or health reasons, since that isn’t what veganism is about in the first place. It’s not just a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle concerned with reducing animal suffering and is a life-long commitment. Or at least, that’s what it used to be about, before the plant-based health-nutters appropriated the term “vegan”. While I realize there’s a lot of overlap between health-conscious people and ethical eaters, this doesn’t change the meaning of “vegan”. Of course, if a celebrity does go vegan for ethical reasons, that’s great, and they could be useful for promoting the vegan lifestyle.

The only things these celebrity worshiping antics accomplish are confusion and further diluting the message of veganism. Ultimately, vegan celebrities make unreliable role models because all-too-often, they revert to their old meat-eating ways, giving the impression that veganism is difficult to stick to. And this isn’t just a hazard of health veganism, since some ethical vegans may also give up on veganism for whatever reason.

In the very least, I think the semantic issues could easily be resolved if people who go “vegan” exclusively for health reasons called themselves “plant-based” or “strict-vegetarian”; leave “vegan” for ethical eaters. It is, in essence, a word that describes an ethical lifestyle, not just a diet.

Does Beyoncé really understand what veganism is about? by SCOTT LAJOIE

Kids and acrobatics

AcroYoga pose called Hangle Dangle. Source: Earl McGehee

Acroyoga pose called Hangle Dangle. Source: Earl McGehee

I don’t have any kids of my own, but if I did, I would take their physical education as seriously as their intellectual development. After all, active kids are not only healthy kids, they generally tend to do better in school. This is why athletics are so important for kids and adults alike.

In order to get more kids interested in fitness, we should broaden what we consider to be athletics. The focus in schools is often on boring old calisthenics, team sports or track, and I think this is very limiting. I believe widening the scope of athletics to include acrobatics can help kids find the fitness activity that is right for them. It can also accommodate children who are not inclined to play team sports for whatever reason. If kids aren’t having fun with what they’re doing, they won’t stick to it. Many people don’t see acrobatics as athletic, but I do. How are the abilities of trapeze artists, tight-rope walkers, or jugglers not athletic?

What is probably the biggest stumbling block to wider acceptance of acrobatics as athletics is acrobatics close association with the circus. This association is unfortunate since the world of acrobatics offers so many fun ways to stay fit that can either be the mainstay of you or your child’s athletic routine, or a supplement to it. And before anyone mentions it, I am not recommending you or your kids take up acrobatic daredevilry.

Juggling is arguably the best gateway to this world, and it’s a safe(unless you juggle chainsaws), fun athletic activity in and of itself. It’s definitely a step forward that more schools are including juggling and acrobatics in their physical education programs. Acroyoga is another excellent way to practice acrobatics. Not surprisingly, juggling and/or acrobatics is linked with improved academic scores. The more options kids have when it comes to athletics, the better.

A Spring Breakthrough

The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail several weeks ago

The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail several weeks ago

It’s an understatement to say that the winter we just experienced here in the northern U.S was especially brutal. As soon as one wicked snow storm passed through, another quickly followed, often dumping several more inches of snow on the several inches already on the ground. To make matters worse, the extreme cold greatly slowed the melting process, seemingly making large snow mountains permanent features of the landscape. For all the problems the snow caused, it was often beautiful to look at.

As snowy and brutal as it was, I managed to defy Old Man Winter’s ruthlessness. Isn’t the whole point of fitness being able to meet a challenge anyway? So I managed to joggle for hundreds of miles, mostly by running in loops around the few precious areas where the snow was cleared. At times the brutally cold wind sounded like Old Man Winter was laughing, but I persevered.

The snow, ice and very cold air greatly slowed me down, but Screenshot from 2015-04-17 11:36:25I figured that my persistence would eventually pay off once spring arrived, and I was right. At first I merely wanted to match my pace from autumn of last year, but I did better than expected and joggled a half-marathon in 1:39:17, my first sub 1:40 half-marathon or 13.1. I dropped twice. This wasn’t even a race, it was a training run. Sure, I’m not nearly as fast as Michael Kapral(1:20:40 half-marathon), who was recently featured in Runner’s World for his incredible joggling achievements, but it’s an improvement for me.

To improve my speed, I didn’t drastically alter my diet(vegan as always) or training, or take any supplements, except that I am doing less upper body strength work these days. I think once a week is better than twice. All the hill training I do is really just a form of strength-training for the legs.

Let this be a lesson to everyone that persistence pays, when it comes to running or anything else in life.

The RunSafe story

The following is a guest post by Sam Voss about the RunSafe App:
When I first started writing for Sharif and Violet Alexandre from RunSafe I knew that they had a cool product, but I didn’t know the story behind it; and I honestly didn’t know what made them create the RunSafe App.

Well, now that I know, I think it’s a tale worth telling.

This is the story a mother-runner, a techie, and an idea to change the way runners feel about safety – this is the story of the RunSafe App!


FamilyViolet, Sharif, and their son Christopher on a morning walk!

It started when Violet Alexandre, the co-founder of premium app-maker RunSafe, called Sharif, her husband and other co-founder of RunSafe, and confirmed his biggest fears.

“That moment will be forever etched in my soul.” Sharif recalls of that day.

The two of them and their young son, Christopher, had just uprooted from Philadelphia and moved to Boulder, Colorado where Violet, “as a non-native,” was still getting acclimated to the new area and exploring different running trails.

“You get on a path,” she explained, “and end up in back areas, and it is really hard to have a sense of where you are.

“There had been a snow storm two days prior,” she illustrated for me in an email, “[and] I was still a little unsure of the various paths.

“I approached an underpass,” she continued, “but I had never run quite that far out on this particular route before and I was contemplating turning around very shortly, and it was almost like on cue at that moment when I was thinking about turning around that I slipped on some black ice.”

Thats when she called.

“I remember her stammering, clearly shaken, letting me know she slipped on some black ice, fell hard and lost control of the stroller.

“I’ve always been concerned about her outdoor runs,” explained Sharif to me in an email, “since she would often go alone in the early morning when it was still dark.And after our son was born and was old enough to be in the stroller I had concerns about them getting hurt in some form or another.”

Yet, he conceded, “knowing her passion for running I knew nothing was going to stop her.”

“So when you first heard from Violet,” I asked, “what was your initial reaction?”

“It was almost too much to take in. Was she OK? Was the baby OK? Where were they? Was anyone around to help?” He was fearing the worst.

“I knew Boulder Creek was directly to my left,” remembered Violet, “and that if the stroller got out of control it would mean my son would fall into a frozen creek. I recall my heart pounding extremely loud in my chest.

“I had the safety strap on my wrist so as I began falling I remember gripping it as tightly as possible. After that, everything is very blurry.

“By some act of God and my holding onto that strap for dear life,” she explained at length, “I was able to keep relative control of the stroller. Christopher never woke up. I got banged up pretty bad. I tore a big hole in my pants and bloodied my hands too.”

Sharif recalls her telling him that “she was bruised pretty badly but assured me that she and the baby were OK to make their way home.”

Needless to say, this disastrous fall could have been much worse, and was still much too close for comfort.

“As a ‘techie’,” Violet wrote “Sharif was immediately seeking solutions so that the next time we went running he would feel more confident.”


“After they came home,” he described to me, “we started talking about how we could prevent something like this from happening in the future.

“I knew I couldn’t stop her from running,” he admitted, “so that wasn’t really an option. It was all about making sure that she was safe on her runs and if something did happen, that we were fully prepared to handle whatever emergency came up.

“When I was looking for apps already out there, what I found were basically what I call glorified panic buttons. They might make a sound or send an alert but that was about it.

“If our app was actually going to be useful to prevent future accidents,” Sharif continued, “its first feature was that it needed to be relevant enough to the person using it so that they would be motivated to use it on a regular basis.

“In this case [for every runner to want to use it regularly] it meant that the app needed to have basic fitness features to track distance, time, pace, etc.”

“My husband was practically instantly activated into action,” Violet recounted.

“As for actual safety features,” he detailed, “the app performs three core functions to help prevent, act, and respond to emergencies.”

With a background in enterprise-level technical architecture, Sharif has had experience working with servers and databases that power both mobile and web applications in different devices, but has never before developed the front-end, user interface that so well embodies the RunSafe App. However, “having that background is what enabled me to build all the safety features that are in the app,” says Sharif.


“The three core pillars of safety – including “Waze” reporting, “Instant Amber Alert” and the PANIC Button are all included in the app,” Sharif explained.

  • The “Waze for Runners,” as Sharif outlines it, is the app feature that prevents accidents. “It would’ve been great if Violet was alerted that she was approaching an are with black ice so that she could’ve avoided it altogether (or the app could have re-routed her),” but there wasn’t an app with that function yet.
  • The action phase of the app includes all of the app’s built-in alert and notification features, like the PANIC Button, that help connect the runner with an emergency contact in the event of an accident.
  • And as far as the responsive attributes, Sharif chose to create an “Instant Amber Alert” page. “This page can be shared with the contact’s network and serves as a communication hub for all the information that comes in for tips, searchers, etc. Response is giving the contact(s) a means to quickly mobile a search and rescue effort once the emergency is deemed to be real,” said Sharif.

A Boulder-based app making company that started in late 2014, the RunSafe App was designed by Sharif, and the business itself is managed by both he and his wife, Violet. The RunSafe App is a premium safety app, that not only acts as a virtual running buddy, but is also equipped with all of the fitness tracking features you would expect from a GPS-integrated running app.

After his wife, Violet, suffered this terrible fall while running one day near their home, the idea to make this safety-focused app became a reality.

“I realized in a very real way how much I take my safety for granted,” voiced Violet in an email, “but the incident really made me wonder what I could do to be safer and more responsible.

“With RunSafe,” she clarified, “I know now that if something goes wrong I have a life line. I have someone on the other side who knows where I am and can come help if I need it.”

As Sharif recalled fondly, “Violet has been a runner ever since I knew her, and I still do worry about her whether or not she runs with Christopher.

The difference is that I feel better prepared to handle an emergency if, God forbid, another one happens.

“With these features,” Violet said, “RunSafe can not only fit the need of keeping individuals and our community safe, but through it, hopefully we can educate and bring awareness about the need to be safe while running as well.”


If you want to download their app for free straight on your phone just text “Hi” to 720-548-2390or follow the link here!

I have to thank Chris for hosting this blog post on his site, and the co-founders of RunSafe, Violet and Sharif, for sharing their story with me! I hope you guys enjoyed the article!

Sam VossAlong with founding and writing for Runnerstongue.com, Sam Voss writes for RunSafe.me. While looking for a new fitness app to track his runs and share his workouts with friends, he stumbled upon the RunSafe App, and later got in touch with the co-founders, Violet and Sharif, in late 2014. Since then, he has been writing for both blogs, contributing to content marketing on other forums, and composing articles on running, tips, and reviews for everything runner-related. Along with being an avid runner and writer, Sam also enjoys hiking and biking in his free time. Check out more from Sam on Twittter and on the RunSafe Blog!